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Many non-voters would vote if they could do it online

An online voting system would increase turnout in general elections if it was available in the UK

Two-fifths of people who are not planning to vote in the UK general election on Thursday (8 June) claim they would if online voting was available, according to a study.

Voting apathy appears to benefit the Conservatives, as only 16% of those not planning to vote would support the party, compared with 24% who would vote Labour.

The survey of more than 1,700 people was carried out by broadband advice site Cable.co.uk. It found that 42% of people who do not plan to vote would if they could do it online.

The survey also revealed that half of the people who are undecided whether to vote would be more likely to do so online.

In the survey, 1,445 respondents said they intended to vote, 245 said they were not intending to vote and 56 were unsure.

People aged between 35 and 44 were most inclined to vote online, with 64% of respondents in this age group saying it would increase the probability of them taking part.

Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, said: “It seems that if voting were made easier, more of us would do it. It makes sense, but it’s nevertheless somewhat shocking that so many people with no plans to vote would do so if it saved them a short trip to the nearest polling station.

“Online voting is almost certainly the future. The key question is whether such a system can be adopted in a way that is beyond potential interference from hackers.”

Separate research in the UK this week found that only 7% of people fully trust online voting, and more than half (52%) think electronic voting is not trustworthy. However, 30% of those surveyed were in favour of electronic voting, for reasons of increased turnout and making it easier for Brits abroad to vote.

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It's refreshing to see a more balanced view on online voting in two of your articles this week (UK voters worried that election will be targeted by hackers, 6 June, Many non-voters would vote if they could do it online, 7 June). Online voting presents a huge opportunity for many different groups of voters such as those overseas and with disabilities including the blind and partially sighted, but too often the debate is held back held back by mistrust and misinformation.

It is, of course, right to raise the issue of security and, like other voting channels used, online voting systems should be heavily scrutinised to ensure maximum security and privacy for voters and election integrity. One could argue that online voting is currently more secure than our current method of postal voting, where citizens have no way of knowing if their vote has been received, cast and recorded. Online voting offers end-to-end security, cryptography and verifiability which is not possible in postal voting.

References to the USA election and accusations of Russian hacking recur frequently in the online voting debate, but both these events concerned personal email accounts rather than online voting machines. It’s little wonder that 52% of people do not trust online voting systems when they are being led to believe that the security around email systems is the same and equal to that of online voting. We now have more than 18 years of accumulated R&D, cryptography, verifiability and auditability behind this technology, as well as numerous examples of successful implementation in countries around the world.

Ironically, although many remain sceptical about the security of online voting systems and are slow to adopt, they are more than happy to register voters online using, in many cases, sub-standard security in this process and putting the privacy of voter data at risk. 
With so much research and expertise behind this technology, isn’t it time voters had the option to vote online alongside traditional voting methods?

Ian Brook, Director, Northern Europe, Scytl

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